Emile Norman

Yesterday I finished watching a documentary I taped about the artist Emile Norman. What a life this guy had! He grew up on a ranch in the 1920's, was gay, had a slight foot deformity and was by all accounts an artist even as a child. Without any emotional support from his mother when it came to art he paved his own way in life and even at 90 yrs old continues to make art.

What struck me most about this documentary was how everything fell into place for him. Some are fortunate, they know what they want to do at an early age and do it regardless of who is there to encourage them. He also met his life partner fairly early in life and this man saw such greatness in Emile that he told him to just keep making art, he would take care of him. Together with the help and support from others, they built their own amazing home in Big Sur in CA.

Emile had an opportunity to do a show in NY which after the critics wrote about it, sold out the next day. He could have stayed in NY and 'made it'. His partner persuaded him to come back to CA as (according to the doc) he saw that abstract was becoming the 'it' thing and Emile's work wouldn't stand a chance there. That was interesting to think about. Sometimes going to NY and 'making it big' might not be the best thing if you are the type of artist who is going against the grain of what is the next big thing. Good to know that he went back to his home and continued to do what he was drawn to do, forgetting about what was popular or in demand. He found his people. They found him. He was commissioned to do a piece for The Masonic Temple on Nob Hill in San Fransico. (if you look at that huge mural keep in mind all the glass that makes that piece up was hand broken by him. Each and every piece individually placed. Mind boggling!) He had his benefactors and seemingly everything he could want. There wasn't any trace of angst and despair in this documentary. How refreshing. I'm sure he had his shit to deal with at times, but for the most part this was by all accounts a man who enjoyed his life, his friends....food, drink, nature, music and art. It did me good to see this, I tried to keep thoughts of jealousy at bay and just enjoy knowing people like this exist!


Kim Hambric said...

Paula, Thanks for info. on yet another artist. Sometimes I realize how little I know of great talent out there. I just bumble along in my own little maze.

How do you manage to discover these documentaries?

self taught artist said...

i bumble too kim.
just when i sit in front of the tv i click info and look at what is on all 333 channels for the day, obsessively clicking everything to find out if something sounds interesting. its kind of like going hunting :)

Daphne said...

i watched the same doc. two nights ago. It was really pretty romantic the way it all worked out for him. I thought that it was funny that he had one leg that had problems. I have a feeling that it was probably a far bigger issue when he was a child-not quite blending in, but it certainly didn't hinder his adult life. Wouldn't it have been amazing to have a partner like Brooks? The fact that they signed their names together as Clemile was a sign of how perfectly they complemented one another.

Emile's work was incredibly intricate and yet he has a huge body of work. Now where can I find someone to send me on a holiday across the world for as long as I want? I tried not to be jealous too!

self taught artist said...

no kidding daphne, could you believe it when their benefactor said go to africa and stay as long as you want!

i honestly dont care for his work all that much, too much wood for me, but i have to admire and respect his work. loved those outdoor wooden sculptures he did for that big building in italy. glad you saw it too :)